Though many Black women have experienced a natural hair journey of sorts, be it a horror story or a success—it doesn't make our experiences monolithic. The reason, process, and reflection of going natural is unique for everyone. For Doralys Britto, a YouTube content creator with over 1.8 million fans on the platform, natural hair has happened in meaningful stages that led her to embrace her strands in its most natural form: locs.
The style appeared few and far between for Britto, who says the standard in her country has long veered towards straight hair. "The culture in the Dominican Republic heavily preaches straightening your hair at a young age," she says, "When I was ten years-old, my mom took me to the salon to get my hair straightened, and I did it regularly for years since. For a while, I didn't even remember what my curly hair looked or felt like. I didn't know myself that way."
Britto held a successful career in the media industry, launched her modeling agency, and spent much of her time teaching women beauty tips for contests and pageants. "I got to a point where I didn't have time for the agency anymore, and we had to close down," she says. "Some of the women at my agency were sad and encouraged me to start a YouTube channel to continue to share my routine and tips."
Over the years, she dabbled in various straight looks like weaves and extensions, which eventually caught up to her active lifestyle. "I had in extensions one day, and I went surfing, and my hair was drenched," she says. "It was one of maybe three times that I've seen my natural hair when I removed my extensions." The third time was the charm for Britto, who went from her surf session to a salon to cut off her chemically altered strands. "When I saw my hair, I thought to myself, this is beautiful," she tells me. "I felt so free when it was all said and done."
Britto documented her experience in July of 2017 and felt compelled to discuss it with her audience, given the lack of representation surrounding natural hair. "A few years back, when I decided to go for it, a lot of people weren't talking about curly hair in my community," she says. "There was a strong cultural stigma." Britto says that growing up and being a professional in the Dominican Republic, curls weren't taught to be embraced, instead altered. "I had to move away from home to realize that I need to celebrate my roots," she says.
According to Britto, this realization led her to go just beyond embracing her curls to locking her hair, a decision that she was deeply rooted in identity. "I am a proud Afro-Latina, and I wanted to embrace that side of my culture and history," she says. "At first, I was scared because there's a huge stigma around locs." Unfortunately, in many societies, there are still harmful stereotypes associated with locs, a style deeply rooted in Black history and culture. "I knew that following my gut would be a beautiful opportunity to break that stigma," she says.
Naturally, she took her followers along her loc journey and described the process as beautiful and transformative. "One day, I just went to a stylist who specializes in locs and did crochet locs. I've grown them naturally since," she says. "I'm so happy I made the decision." For Britto, locking her hair was not only a celebration of her roots but one of liberation from a routine that consumed a lot of her time. "I'm an active person. I love surfing, backpacking, and hiking," she says. "I was looking for a hairstyle that allowed me to do things I enjoyed more freely because I think we women invest so much time, money, and energy in our hair. I wanted something easy for once. I wanted to be free."
Britto says she hopes sharing her loc journey, both past and ongoing, not only inspires people to embrace their unique hair journey but helps to continue the destigmatization of Black people and locs. "I want to educate people about the process, so they feel empowered," she says. "Locs are beautiful, elegant, and professional. Locs are a symbol of strength, opposition, my Blackness, my culture, and that should celebrated."